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VOTER GUIDE / ISSUES

A roundup of candidates' answers to fiscal and societal questions

September 28, 2003

The Times posed a set of questions about several of the issues in the recall race to Gov. Gray Davis and the major candidates seeking to replace him. Excerpts from their responses follow.

Fiscal Issues

Q. Do you favor or oppose repealing the car tax increase that went into effect this year? If you favor repeal, please specify what programs you would cut or taxes you would increase to offset the approximately $4 billion in revenue the increase is expected to generate.

Gov. Gray Davis (D)

I favored increasing taxes on upper-income earners and on cigarettes. I would support reducing the vehicle license fee so long as it does not come at the expense of local police and fire departments, which are the primary beneficiaries of the fee. I believe the Legislature's proposal to swap the car tax increase with taxes on upper-income earners and cigarettes makes sense.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D)

I propose that we exempt the first $20,000 of every automobile's value from the increase in the car tax. This will return $2 billion to the taxpayers. I propose the revenue loss can be made up by increases in tobacco and alcohol taxes.

State Sen. Tom McClintock (R)

My first act as governor will be to rescind Gray Davis' tripling of the car tax. I would offset the general fund backfill expenditures with $2.5 billion in savings to state and local government that will accrue from my workers' comp reform and aggressive enforcement to stop Medi-Cal fraud that will save approximately $2 billion annually.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)

I will repeal the car tax increase immediately upon taking office. The car tax hurts working Californians. The tax is harsh and regressive. I will replace these revenues and eliminate the operating deficit by reducing wasteful spending and bringing jobs back to California.

Q. Would you propose or sign into law any increase in taxes or fees as part of an effort to balance the state budget? If so, which ones and how much? If you would rule out tax or fee increases, where, specifically, would you cut spending?

Gov. Gray Davis (D)

The budget I proposed in January of this year included a balanced combination of spending reductions and revenue increases. I would not support an increase in homeowners' property taxes.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D)

I propose that we increase a variety of taxes including tobacco and alcohol, close corporate tax loopholes, and reassess commercial property with the same frequency that we reassess homeowner property.

State Sen. Tom McClintock (R)

I will not raise any taxes or fees, PERIOD. I would immediately begin implementing reforms suggested by the Reason Foundation and the Performance Institute to eliminate duplication among departments, introduce competitive bidding for state services and institute performance-based budgeting -- reforms that can save an estimated $15 billion while providing improved service delivery.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)

I am firmly opposed to raising taxes. California has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation, and just about everything a Californian does today is subject to one tax or another. The problem is overspending, and the operating deficit must be closed by getting spending under control.

Q. Should the state Constitution be amended to eliminate the required two-thirds vote to pass a budget or raise taxes?

Gov. Gray Davis (D)

During this year's budget process, we saw the minority party -- Republicans -- hold the budget process hostage. I understand that frustration with that behavior has prompted Californians to circulate an initiative that would eliminate the two-thirds requirement. It will be up to the people of California to decide.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D)

I believe that the voters were right to change the voting requirement for school bonds to 55%. We should apply that sensible standard to all revenue questions.

State Sen. Tom McClintock (R)

The two-thirds requirement to raise taxes is a vital protection for the taxpayers against the tax-and-spend crowd here in Sacramento and must be vigorously defended, as I have for 20 years.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)

I support a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to pass a state budget. The problem isn't the California Constitution; the problem is the partisanship and lack of leadership in Sacramento. I will provide leadership to pass state budgets on time.

Q. The state faces a projected $8-billion shortfall in next year's budget. What programs would you target for reductions? Would you provide any money for K-12 education beyond the minimum required by Proposition 98? Would you cut prison spending? Would you cut back on health-care programs? Would you cut the size of the state work force? Would you support reductions in salaries and benefits for state employees?

Gov. Gray Davis (D)

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